In Saudi Arabia, a government-developed application called Absher allows men to track and prevent women from leaving the country. This was revealed in a published investigation by Insider media.
Thanks to Absher, Internet users can complete many tasks: pay for their parking, renew their driving licence, register the birth of a child. But they also have access to another feature.
They can specify when women are allowed to leave the country. They can grant or revoke a travel authorization in a few clicks. Users only need the passport credentials of each « dependent » person (wife, daughter or sister) to track their movements.
This app also allows them to receive an automatic SMS from the Ministry of the Interior as soon as a woman registered on Absher uses her passport at a border post or wn airport. Insider gives this example: « Sarah, number ########, left King Abdulaziz Airport on 12-11-2016. »
After the publication of this Insider investigation, Google and Apple were singled out by American activists, NGOs and elected officials. They were accused of making « Absher » available on their store and thus reinforcing a « gender apartheid » in Saudi Arabia.
On Google Play Store, Absher has already been downloaded more than a million times. It is impossible to know the number on Apple’s App Store, because the Cupertino giant does not share these figures.
Apple CEO Tim cook, stated that the company will look into the application. No answer from Google as of yet.